For most of our history, humans lived in small hunter-gatherer groups whose diets, living conditions, and environmental pressures were very different from what most humans face today. The result is that the evolutionary adaptations which proved beneficial in our past may prove less so now. This fascinating book explores the implications of human evolutionary history for human health and medicine. The topics include the evolution of antibiotic resistance, the evolution of pathogen virulence, the evolution of aging, the design of vaccines, and population- and genotype-specific reactions to drugs and susceptibility to disease. The book also discusses new insights into mother-offspring conflict during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause, child abuse, homicide, depression, schizophrenia, and many chronic degenerative diseases, such as cancer and osteoporosis. Written by leading experts in evolutionary medicine and addressed to medical students and researchers and evolutionary biologists, the book describes the state of the art and provides clear access to the primary literature. It also provides compelling arguments for why the tools evolutionary biology belong in every doctor's tool-kit.
Reviewer:Lee F Greer, BA, MS, PhD(La Sierra University)
Description:This strikingly well chosen compendium brings together nearly 50 experts in a wide array of disciplines in biomedical science that intersect with and are informed by evolutionary biology. In addition to contributing themselves, editors Stephen C. Stearns and Jacob C. Koella have brought together authors to provide an important update on the first edition of 1999. Part I introduces the evolutionary discipline as it relates to medicine, and parts II-V applies this to infectious diseases, behavior, human life histories and behavior, new diseases, and aging.
Purpose:The editors propose to make the subject matter accessible to a wide audience of educators and graduate students in the biosciences, medical students and practitioners, and the public. Such a contribution is ambitious and indeed necessary. By and large they succeed admirably. It is satisfying to see how the editors have managed to achieve a remarkable degree of similarity of tone and technicality across the contributions from so many authors.
Audience:The authors and their editors have largely succeeded in keeping the material accessible for their target audience. Unfortunately, some instances of technical terms without adequate definition do appear, but the authors very often succeed in adequately explaining discipline-specific terms and concepts. The degree to which they succeed indicates the intimate knowledge of the material by the authors and their editors.
Features:In part I, the authors discuss major classical evolutionary concepts from allele frequencies in population genetics, natural selection, adaptation, and phylogenetics as they relate to medicine. In part II, the readers learns about the co-evolution of humans and infectious diseases and datasets in the age of genomics and examples of medical importance of our evolutionary history. In part III, natural selection and adaptation is applied to life history, hormones, immunity, and behavioral ecology. Part IV focuses on the evolution of human pathogens, and part V brings evolutionary insights to developmental biology, chronic and degenerative ailments, and aging.
Assessment:This second edition is a welcome addition to the growing integration of the biomedical sciences. As an evolutionary biologist, I found myself grateful more than once that these well organized summary articles (with their references) on so many disciplines connected to evolutionary biology and genomics could be found between only two covers!